Shawnee & Lenexa

Witness combination of Project Runway-style design, elementary-school geometry lessons

A new wave of young shoe designers strutted along the runway during the Geometry Fashion Show on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at Rosehill Elementary School in Lenexa.
A new wave of young shoe designers strutted along the runway during the Geometry Fashion Show on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at Rosehill Elementary School in Lenexa. Special to The Star

What do you get when you mix cardboard with duct tape, state geometry curriculum standards, and a group of innovative elementary school shoe designers?

A Geometry Fashion Show, of course.

The red carpet at Rosehill Elementary sizzled Thursday afternoon as the school’s creative, young shoe-design teams presented their own spectacular version of Project Runway. More than two dozen Shawnee Mission School District teachers and administrators served as models, dancing and swaggering their way through the gym wearing custom shoes from the school’s pint-size design teams.

The fashion show was the culmination of months of work by these determined kindergarten, first- and second-grade students, who were assisted in completing the projects by select fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students.

The journey started in November for Rosehill’s shoemakers, who were in the midst of a geometry unit as teachers sought a way to broaden the real-world application of their studies. Students were assigned to teams and launched a shoe design and construction project, which incorporated their geometry lessons.

Each team also was given a specific district teacher or administrator for whom they had to design a pair of shoes.

Brandi Leggett, Rosehill’s instructional coach, conceived the project and its climactic fashion show. She worked with the students’ classroom teachers to create a project that would match the students’ interests and passions with the classroom geometry studies.

“We looked at the curriculum standards and asked what we could do to make them student-centered, relevant, and engaging while still being learning-based,” Leggett said. “We wanted to take it beyond grade-level geometry instruction. With shoes, they could see how geometry was used in the real world.”

First and foremost, the designs had to incorporate geometry concepts that aligned with state standards, including line, shape, and symmetry elements. The shoe designs — which were given names such as “Batman Slips,” “Upscale,” and “The Queen Glitter” — also needed to be functional and wearable.

Pam Lewis, director of elementary services for the Shawnee Mission School District, channeled “The Queen Glitter” in her golden shoes Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, during the Geometry Fashion Show at Rosehill Elementary School in Lenexa. Anne Marie Hunter Special to The Star

Additionally, the designers also strove to meet some style and fashion guidelines from their respective models.

“I asked for lots of bling and high heels,” SMSD Assistant Superintendent for Leadership and Learning Dr. Michelle Hubbard said with a laugh.

Designed by first-graders, Collin and Sincere, with the assistance of fifth-graders, Phillip and Jonathan, Hubbard’s vivid magenta flip-flops sparkled with the requisite bling. While they didn’t have the requested high heels, she loved them anyway.

Bling wasn’t also part of the vision for the project.

“The concept for the show started out small,” Leggett said. “We started with newspaper and duct tape but it grew and became more elaborate. We drew from the art department and other classroom teachers joined in.”

The reach for just the right materials extended beyond the school.

“My grandmother was a seamstress and had a bridal shop,” said Alison Harrington, school librarian. “I brought makerspace stuff from her home, tassels, and more.”

As the materials list grew, so too did the students’ interest and desire to excel with the project.

“At first, they asked why they had to make shoes,” Leggett said. “Then, they asked, ‘Will they look good? Will they be comfortable? And how can we make them better?’ They also learned a new appreciation for how hard it is to make a pair of shoes.”

Aside from the practical application of geometry, the students also developed teamwork skills, learned to persevere through challenges, and experienced the joy of seeing their vision come to fruition.

“Now, they see that they can take their ideas and make them happen,” Leggett said. “They are so proud seeing their accomplishments and all of the possibilities ahead.”